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5 things to watch: Lions at Panthers

The players on the bubble have a chance to make one final case for inclusion on Detroit's initial 53-man roster that has to be set by 4 p.m. Tuesday during tonight's preseason finale in Carolina.

"I think a lot of guys need to show up for us and there's a lot of guys that we'll be looking for that we consider depth players, spot starters, guys fighting for jobs, practice squad spots, so I think you're looking for it all," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week. "We need everybody to step up."

Here are five things I'll be looking out for tonight in a very important contest for a lot of different players:


Will the Lions ultimately keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster or three?

The Lions proposed a bylaw change in the spring that was adopted by the NFL that allows teams to have an emergency third quarterback on the gameday roster that doesn't count toward the team's 46 players on gameday. Campbell said that won't factor into their decision to keep two or three on the initial 53, however.

Teddy Bridgewater was put in a tough spot last week having only three practices under his belt before playing against Jacksonville in the preseason game. The expectation is for him to look more comfortable tonight.

When Nate Sudfeld gets his chance to play can he move the offense, score points and prove he's one of the top 53 players on this roster? It's a big night for Sudfeld.


Is the fifth receiver to start the season currently on Detroit's roster?

We shouldn't forget that over 800 players will become available at or before Tuesday's cut deadline, and GM Brad Holmes and his staff will certainly be on the lookout for any perceived upgrades to the roster.

Can Dylan Drummond, Chase Cota, Maurice Alexander, Trinity Benson or someone else have themselves a game tonight and claim the last roster spot(s) at receiver? Special teams could play a big factor in this decision as well, so pay attention to who is getting special teams reps and how many.

3. NO. 1 PICK

The expectation is for quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick is this year's NFL Draft, to play tonight along with most of Carolina's starters on offense. The Panthers are trying to get their rookie starter up to speed for the regular season, so this should be a good test for Detroit's reserves on defense to face likely the best competition they've seen yet to start a preseason game.

That means Campbell and Holmes should get some really good evaluations on some of the bubble players and young players on defense to start this one tonight.


The struggle was real last week for Detroit's backups along the offensive line. The Lions struggled to protect Bridgewater and Sudfeld throughout the game and offered little as run blockers. Detroit averaged just 1.8 yards per carry for a total of 35 yards on 19 carries.

If we don't see more consistent play from some of the reserves upfront tonight on offense there's a possibility Holmes could be scouring the waiver wire early next week to shore up some of those last couple reserve spots behind a pretty good top seven in Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Penei Sewell, Graham Glasgow and Matt Nelson. We need to see much more competitive play from the reserves upfront tonight.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, August 23, 2023.


It's one of the few special teams jobs still up for grabs as we start to look to the regular season and the opener in Kansas City. It looked like it was going to be Justin Jackson's job for a second consecutive year before he retired mid-camp. Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has cycled through players both in practice and the preseason looking to find a natural fit.

It depends on the makeup of the 53-man roster, but that spot still seems kind of unsettled. Maybe a couple big returns tonight could sway Fipp and the Lions one way or another.

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